[Viewpoint] North Korea’s invasion not a true warAccording to the Eastern philosophy of righteous nomenclature, language is more than a mere means of communication. Instead, language is an advanced act of culture that contains a profound sense of history based on moral justification and logical reasoning.
For example, Korea fought against Japan for seven years beginning in 1592, the Year of Imjin. However, we do not call it the “Joseon-Japan War” or the “Imjin War” but rather refer to it as “the Japanese invasion in the Year of Imjin.”
The invasion of the Later Jin in 1627, the Year of Jeongmyo, and the invasion of the Qing in 1636 are referred to as the first and the second Manchu invasions, not the Joseon-Later Jin War or the Joseon-Qing War.
Why do we not call these clashes wars? Why are they instead legitimately labeled invasions?
A war is a military conflict between two countries that openly declare war and go to battle. When an arbitrary group with no legitimacy challenges a legitimate country without any declaration, it does not constitute a war. Instead, we call it a disturbance or an invasion.
When a legitimate nation makes a punitive expedition to subjugate an arbitrary group, we call it subjugation. A nation pacifies armed guerrillas and barbarians. It does not wage a formal war.
As there is no longer any clear distinction in English, we say “war on crime” or “war on drugs,” but these fights are more like mopping-up operations.
While we certainly need to learn good things from others, we would be insulting our own history and culture by copying even the Western world’s irrational language choices.
Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict that Koreans call “the June 25 Conflict.”
The government is preparing various events in memory of the tragic clash.
Song Dynasty poet Dongpo Su Shi said, “Even in a time of peace, we should never forget war.”
We welcome the president’s stated intent to establish more correct perceptions of the inter-Korean conflict among the post-war generation and to pursue a future-oriented partnership with the countries that fought for South Korea.
However, not only the approved textbooks but even official government documents now refer to the June 25 conflict as a war.
In fact, when the June 25 conflict broke out, we Koreans called it an incident, since the South was unexpectedly invaded by the North.
When an armistice was signed in 1953, the government and the citizens agreed, after taking various circumstances into account, to call it the June 25 Disturbance.
But the name of the conflict was somehow replaced with the Korean War or the June 25 War.
What does North Korea call its invasion against the South? Pyongyang’s favorite phrase is “the Holy War of National Unification,” but it officially refers to the period as the South Joseon Liberation War.
If we make it official to call the events following June 25 a war, it would be either a blind and thoughtless direct translation from English or support and flattery to North Korea’s theory.
North Koreans call the tragic conflict of June 25 a holy war to unify the country and claim that South Korea interrupted unification by bringing in foreign forces.
If we are going to recognize the disturbance as a war, then statesmen need to think first about the dreadful historical consequences.
*The writer is chairman of the board of directors at the Korea Institute for Social Science and Humanity Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hong Il-sik